The Committee on Petitions (PETI) of the European Parliament will ask France for explanations with regard to abusive controls carried out against foreign companies posting workers to its territory within the framework of the provision of services.
This is the result of a complaint by a Polish company that was examined on Wednesday, 24 February before the European Parliament. The company was repeatedly forced by the French Labour Inspection to register in France, which is a clear violation of freedom to provide services enshrined in the Treaty.
The complainant, an employment agency, as well as many other companies mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, have experienced numerous abusive inspections by the French Labour Inspection in the recent years. Despite the accusations made by the inspectors and concerning the alleged committing of the crime of the so-called illegal work and illegal activity in France, the company did not receive a single euro in fines. Despite the lack of any grounds for the accusations made by the inspectors, its contractors received, on a regular basis, notifications that they were involved in a crime, which could result in high penalties. Inspectors suggested that they would drop all charges if the company ceased to provide its services in France.
During the hearing in the PETI Committee, the entrepreneur also complained about a manner in which the inspection was carried out:
“Working conditions of our workers, their safety at work, remuneration, working time or whether the posting was genuine were not subject of the inspection. I am convinced that these inspections have never been about protecting the rights of posted workers. The purpose of the inspections was to make me either register the company or stop providing services in France. Interestingly, the inspectors did their best to avoid reading the documentation because they knew that they would not find any irregularities there. They only contacted the Polish Labour Inspection once to check if we were actually operating in Poland” said the company’s representative Wojciech Rzepka during the hearing.
Pursuant to the European law, an entrepreneur may provide services in other European Union countries without the need to register the enterprise there, as long as he holds no permanent infrastructure in that country. Undermining that principle creates unlawful barriers on the Internal Market and violates the Treaty freedom to provide services. This was the opinion of all MEPs taking part in the discussion, regardless of their nationality and membership of a political group. MEPs unanimously decided to proceed with the matter and to refer it to the European Commission, which has a special role to play as guardian of the Treaties.
The interest in the petition submitted by the Polish entrepreneur with the support of the ELMI proved very high. A total of 10 MEPs from many political groups, ranging from the European People’s Party, Socialists and Greens to the European Conservatives and Reformists, responded to the company’s speech. The following MEPs took part in the discussion (in order of speaking): Stelios Kympouropoulos (EPP, Greece); Tatjana Ždanoka (Greens, Latvia); Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Malta); Elżbieta Rafalska (ECR, Poland); Ádám Kósa (EPP, Hungary); Jarosław Duda (EPP, Poland); Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, Poland); Radan Kanev (EPP, Bulgaria); Kosma Złotowski (ECR, Poland) and Dolors Montserrat (EPP, Spain, Chair).
Petitions to the European Parliament are one of the many legal remedies available to EU citizens whose rights are violated. Apart from the Solvit system and a complaint to the European Commission, it constitutes another effective way to counteract infringements. Our Institute receives many signals from Polish companies that are victims of the illegal practices of the French Labour Inspection. Unfortunately, many of them do not oppose such practices, which, sadly, encourages that institution to behave even more ruthlessly and boldly.
”Why are these complaints relevant? Unfortunately, Polish entrepreneurs very often tend to accept abusive controls as a sort of a natural element of cross-border provision of services. That is why we are very pleased that some of them are actually starting to defend their rights against the EU institutions. We hope that other entrepreneurs will follow the same path. We will provide support to each of them. Applying pressure to set up a business in France is a common activity and affects many Polish companies” – was the summary of the hearing in PETI by Margareta Przybyła from the European Labour Mobility Institute, which supported the petitioner in the complaint procedure.
Katarzyna Węglarz & Marcin Kiełbasa
You can watch the entire hearing at the European Parliament’s website here.